Beijing - Mainland experts on Monday hailed Taiwan leader Ma Ying-jeou's pledge that the island will never ask the United States to help fight a war with the mainland, saying it demonstrates Ma's determination to push for better cross-Straits ties.
In a CNN interview, conducted entirely in English via video conference and broadcast on April 30, Ma, speaking from his office in Taipei, said that "we will continue to reduce the risks so that we will purchase arms from the United States, but we will never ask the Americans to fight for Taiwan. This is something that is very, very clear."
Chen Xiancai, a researcher at the Taiwan Studies Center in Xiamen University, said Ma has been the first Taiwan leader who dared to say "never" to US help since former leader Lee Teng-hui introduced direct "presidential" elections in late 1990s.
According to its 1979 Taiwan Relations Act, the US has the obligation to help defend the island, but as it seeks better ties with Beijing, the US has hedged on saying how far it would go in the event of a war, Reuters commented on Monday.
"The society of Taiwan has a strong dependence on the US, while Ma's comment of never asking for US help to fight for Taiwan indicates his determination to ease cross-Straits relations, which can be interpreted as goodwill toward the mainland," Chen told China Daily.
He said the move proves Ma will continuously promote cross-Straits exchanges and cooperation, including the proposed comprehensive trade pact between the two sides.
Chen, however, emphasized that Ma was very cautious to appease the US by reiterating the demand for arms sales, which are strongly opposed by the mainland.
Li Jiaquan, a senior researcher with the Institute of Taiwan Studies at the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences, also expressed his appreciation for Ma's comments.
He said a consistent and determined mainland policy is also helpful in winning more support for Ma.
Li said while the pro-independence opposition Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) always attempted to drag America into a war to help its push for "Taiwan independence", Ma is trying to rule out such a possibility.
Ma also said during the CNN interview that the risk to the US of a conflict between the mainland and Taiwan is the lowest in 60 years.
"In the last two years, as a result of our efforts to improve relations with the mainland, we have already defused the tension to a great extent," he said.
Direct transportation, mail and trade have been achieved across the Taiwan Straits since Ma took office in May 2008.
Hsiao Bi-khim, director of the International Affairs Department of the DPP, accused Ma on Sunday of undermining "national security" by eliminating the vagueness Washington has deliberately maintained on how it would respond to a possible mainland attack against Taiwan, the Taipei-based "central news agency" reported on Sunday.
Washington, which had no immediate comment on Ma's remarks, could decide on its own whether to help Taiwan, Taiwan's "cabinet" spokesman Johnny Chiang said on Monday following protests from the opposition DPP.
The US decided in January to sell Taiwan more than $6 billion worth of weapons, causing a tough response from Beijing.